In our drive-through, text-preferential, phone-gawking, multi-tasking world, we have forgotten how to listen. And one of my goals in 2018? To become a better listener, using the acronym EAR.
In my previous blogs, we covered the “E” and “A.”
- “E” stands for enquire. After I listen to someone who is speaking, I will ask or comment about at least three things he said, and none of those enquiries start with “I.” This is not a time to focus on me.
- “A” stands for attention. When someone is speaking, we need to give him our undivided focus. Not only does this means no eye darting, watch peeking, interjecting, or mind wandering, it also entails learning to be a good listener despite inevitable interruptions.
This week, we’ll look at the “R,” which stands for refrain.
Once again, we’ll usher in Amy, who has spent the last two blogs trying to tell me about the bad day she had. Today, I put my new “E” and “A” listening skills into practice. While Amy is speaking, I pay attention, even through interruptions. And, because I’ve focused on what she is saying, I ask her several questions about her bad day.
However, while she’s answering my questions, I realize that her bad day is the result of an ongoing problem at work. Goody-goody—I can hardly wait till Amy finishes! When she’s finally done, I rub my hands together and spring myself on her with, “Okay, listen, here’s what you need to do…” Off I go, giving her precise directions with the constant assurance that, “This will work, trust me.”
Instead of putting Amy at ease, however, she’s starting to panic. She has come to me with a story about her bad day, and, with the force of a steam roller, I’ve backed her into a corner. What if Amy doesn’t want to do what I’m saying, or she doesn’t agree with me? She cringes, knowing that I’ll probably check up on her to find out whether she followed my advice, and she’s worried that she’ll hurt my feelings or make me angry if she doesn’t. Not only that, but my plan sounds like a lot of work, and may even put her in an uncomfortable position. Now she’s sorry she ever said anything to me. And when I finish fixing her all up, she’s outa there.
What did I do wrong?
Here’s something amazing that I realized as I listened and had others listen to me—most people, especially women, don’t want a listener to fix their problem.
Nope. They don’t.
They just want someone to listen—really listen—and to commiserate and care.
Ladies, do I hear an “Amen”?
People need to talk about their problems, fears, and worries. Sometimes, they need to pour out their frustrations or cry on someone’s shoulder. Unless we’re specifically asked to help fix a problem, refrain from pulling out that proverbial hammer or dazzling them with our wise-sage advice.
So what should I have done instead in Amy’s case?
- Listened with a quiet mouth and attentive heart until she finished with everything she wanted to say.
- Prayed with her—right then and there. If the setting or circumstance didn’t allow me to pray, I should have told her that I’d pray for her at home, and then do it!
- Offered to help in any way I could and to listen any time she needs to talk.
- Called, texted, or emailed her in a few days to see how she is and to assure her that I’m praying.
On occasion, God will bring a person to us, because we have the solution to their problem. Sometimes it’s obvious that we need to impart some advice—maybe a friend is overwhelmed, because she has to find a memory care facility for her mother, and my family just went through the same experience and knows some good places with excellent care. In this situation, I said, “We just found a great memory care for my mom. Would it be helpful if I gave you some recommendations?” We need to pray for wisdom and discernment, so we’ll know when to refrain and when to explain.
When we become good listeners, we are glorifying our big God. And if we want to be more like Jesus, we need to demonstrate God’s love by taking the time to be caring, compassionate listeners.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:12, NIV)
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry. (Psalm 34:15, NIV)
I’d love to hear your comments and stories about experiences you’ve had as a listener or a listenee. Just click on “comments” under my name and type away!
May God bless you with ears to truly hear.